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Our Success Stories

Sensory Trigger Method

Barbara Dean Schacker, Author
Innovative Programs

Online Sessions

Self Help for Families

For Speech Therapists

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What is your success rate?

Based on our yearly evaluations, we have an impressive 96% success rate of the online training sessions. The evaluation data is for a year's time, from the Spring of 2014 through the Spring of 2015. 96% of those who had just one session successfully learned the method and techniques, which successfully triggered new speech in 30 to 60 minutes.

These included, various speech disabilities and different types of speech loss, such as different kinds of aphasia and apraxia, (dysphasia and dyspraxia in the UK). Participants ranged from mild to moderate to severe. Depending on the level of severity of speech disorder, to be rated as a "success", a person had to accomplish one or more of the following: saying their first words, saying their first two-word sentences, three-word sentences, or responding to questions with 2 or 3 word sentences. Many said spontaneous (unprompted) words and sentences, and learned how to "unblock" themselves. The sensory trigger technique taught in the sessions were individualized according to what the person was able to say--in other words each had the starting point appropriate to their speech disabilities.

Moderate and mild symptoms such as losing the words mid-sentence learned how to do "unblock themselves using the senory trigger method and how to generally overcome sensory and emotional blocks to speech.

In addition a "success" rating requires a positive response when asked what they thought of the session at the end of the session.

So far this year, we are maintaining that high level, though this year we will include success that goes beyond the first session, something that only shows up later for many people.

The rate of success on the software programs is evaluated continually. Success is based on client feedback, the absence of complaints, the number of recommendations to clients from other clients and therapists and the number of returns during the warranty periods. Long-term speech recovery is nearly impossible to assess, because so many factors that are involved. We are proud to say that since beginning of publishing in 1999, returns due to dissatisfaction for any reason maintained a rate of less than 1% of programs sold. Interviews with our users have been very positive. Success is due in part to excellent customer and technical support. Check out our "Success" page for users comments and success stories.

Generally, those who regained the most had both the sessions and the kits or a program. Each person receives a specific individualized approach depending upon their special needs and characteristics in the sessions, while the kits and programs provide the content and structure to progress on a daily basis. In addition, the design of our programs is highly flexible. A person can add their own content and exercises can be made easier or more challenging depending upon the person's needs and progress.

Can a person recover speech at home with the help of family and friends without a speech therapist?

The answer is "Yes"--but there are some things to consider. First of all, we don't recommend substituting this for professional speech therapy. Insurance and government health care programs have been drastically cut back over the past decade or so. Many people are only getting a few sessions that are spread out over a relatively short period of time. With what we now know about brain plasticity and brain recovery, speech therapy with the usual approach many times just doesn't work---or it works only up to a certain point. Though STM is not speech therapy, speech therapists are now recognizing the value of it. It is an evidence-based approache that applies knowledge of brain plasticity. They can either incorporate it into their practice or use it with certain clients that aren't progressing. The programs have been used in Brain Rehab Centers, Nursing homes and assisted living complexes and in Stroke Support Groups. Most, this approach works with long-term effort along with family and friends who interact with you every day. STM absolutely requires daily speech practice to succeed--but it blends in with daily life so well that as you progress it isn't needed as much. Once the new pathways are established, you wont need to do the same kind of work on your speech that you did before.

What is the Sensory Trigger Method based on? The Sensory Trigger Method is based on the life experiences of Barbara Dean Schacker and something called "brain plasticity"--something that is now widely accepted as being key to brain injury and stroke recovery. There are evidence-based studies that have given us new information about how an injured brain can regain lost skills and even learn new skills. These studies are also telling us that the recovery process is usually gradual--it takes place or a much longer time frame than is normally taken. Speech recovery can take up to two years and even continue for many years. In addition, though starting right away is best, the brain potential (as long as some other damage hasn't happened in the meantime) is still be there years later.

Is STM strictly a "right brain" approach? No, the Sensory Trigger Method is actually a "whole brain" approach. It reactivates old pathways from early childhood and makes new pathways through the undamaged hemisphere (usually the right) that then reroutes the signals around the damage. The brain self-organizes these new pathways. If there are undamaged areas on the left "whole brain" approach. It begins by accessing the undamaged side of the brain. It routes around the damage and to find a new connections. If there is little undamaged brain tissue left on the dominant side, it will develop expand the ability of the non-dominant speech center on the right. STM uses all the sensory systems--the eyes (visual), the ears (auditory) and the kinesthetic-tactile (movement and touch) coming from the hand. In addition, STM works with emotional intelligence, social interaction and other things like relaxation, breath and pacing. It addresses "learned helplessness", depression, "holding the breath", "stage fright" and other "blocks" to speech. All these aspects can make or break a person's ability to recover.

When can we expect improvements in speech to begin? First words and sentences can often be triggered and vocalized within 15 to 20 minutes (particularly in a STM session). If using the programs alone, it might longer periods ranging from a few days, to 6 to 8 weeks to 18 months in severe cases. The programs are absolutely necessary, however, to have the easiest, most practical tools for daily speech practice that will allow progress from one level to the next. There are many factors that affect this so everyone's recovery is different.

How much time and assistance is required? Our kit provides everything you need to help with speech recovery. Enlist family members or friends to help set up the computer and working space with the materials. At first someone will need to work directly with the person daily or almost daily for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. After progress has been made, many can do the exercises and program with little or no help at all.

How can we tell if it is working? How long will it take? Signs of progress can usually be seen in about 6 weeks, but it takes 6 to 8 weeks of daily repetitive practice using the Sensory Trigger Techniques for the brain to connect to new pathways. Often words will begin to come back before then, because the Sensory Trigger Technique activates pathways that are there, but just haven't been used before.

Is it too late? We have found that in most cases there is no time where it becomes "too late" to start this kind of work. You can start this years after the stroke or traumatic brain injury and still succeed. We have noticed that those that started doing the alternate hand technique soon after their stroke seem to have the fastest and best recoveries. Get started with this as soon as you can--the sooner the better!

Does it work with left-handed people? Does it work for those with no paralysis on either side? Does it interfere with hand movement therapies? The answers are Yes, Yes and No. Yes, the techniques work the same way for left-handed people. Left-handed people often have an advantage, because the hand is more easily retrained as the dominant hand. Yes, it works for those with no or little paralysis in either hand. They still have to use the hand connected to the undamaged side to do the techniques and exercises. So even though they might have regained hand movement in their right hand, they still have to switch to the other hand in order to trigger speech from the other side or the brain. They can use their right hand for everything else. No, it does not interfere with any therapy they are taking to recover hand movement in their right hand. The person will just become more ambidextrous--which is a good thing. After speech is recovered and the new pathways made, one does not need to do the Sensory Trigger Method anymore.

Can STM being used in speech therapy? Is it being used in speech therapy? Yes!...and our speech recovery programs and speech practice materials can make a big difference. From interviews with our users, we have found that aphasia patients who have stopped progressing in speech therapy, can start progressing again after the family has used our Kit and new brain connections have been made. Our users, many who were not progressing in speech therapy, suddenly start saying the words that were in our program, and then can continue speech therapy because they are then able to make progress. Some therapists will require that you finish speech therapy before working with the Sensory Trigger Method, but since it has been successfully integrated into speech therapy or used as an adjunct elsewhere, we believe this might not be necessary. That the only consideration might be how much the person can do without becoming worn out or overwhelmed. The therapist can adapt STM to their materials by add the techniques that will add the touch signals. More and more therapists are using STM with clients who are not responding to therapy. (Remember, STM is evidence-based so it can qualify.) The sessions with therapists have had the same great results as the ones with families. The combination of having the therapist try the method with their client with family members present in a session can build an unbeatable speech recovery team. We are seeing this first hand. Getting everyone involved can make a real breakthrough. Also, more and more therapists recommend us to their clients when their speech therapy has "run out". This way they don't leave therapy empty handed. They can continue to recover at their own pace at home.

Can they recover speech just by doing more with their left hand? Why do we need the kit, if we are just learning to use the alternate hand? Our stroke patient has gotten really good with his/her left hand. Why hasn't speech returned? We always use the hand that is connected to the undamaged side of the brain. This varies depending upon the individual. Left handed people seem to have an advantage--in that case, the left hand will be "resetting" dominance and will be making new connections. Even though the right hand might recover completely, it is still triggering the damaged side.

Isn't this just a multi-sensory or multi-modal approach? Why would we need the training session or the kit if it is just touching or using the hand along with speech practice? The Sensory Trigger Method and exercises are very specific. It doesn't work unless it is done in certain ways. There is a certain order and timing of sensory cues that is essential. Different techniques used for different speech problems and stages of recovery. The Kit explains how there are several things that must be combined and put into motion before a connection to the other speech center can be made. The exercises are very specific. The vocabulary is based on the most frequently spoken words, with the easiest word to say coming first. The content is focused on basic communication so a person can communicate their needs, feelings and interests. Conversational speech and daily practical speech are the primary focus while fluency is primary goal. The Kit explains how to deal with all kinds of problems, such as short term memory lost and motivation. In addition, the key is not just passively use the hand, but to do the Sensory Trigger Method along with efforts to talk throughout the day--to apply what is learned in the sessions and programs to everyday living.

Why not just use a communication device--that is operated by the alternate hand? We have found that communication devices operated by the left hand do not necessarily bring back speech. They are a substitute for speech. We believe this happens for 3 reasons: 1. the whole STM method techniques are missing 2. the person actually becomes dependent on the device to speak for them and 3. the brain learns how to operate the device, but this activity doesn't necessarily route the signals to a place in the brain that will relearn how to speak. You can, however, use our Kit along with a communication device as long as you add the sensory trigger method along with it. The communication device does help to ease the frustration of not being able to communicate, but everyone we've talked to says it didn't help much with speech.

Do we have to have a computer to use this method? No--although the programs in really make it possible to follow the method and move up through progressive stages, STM can be done independently using just the hand and a person trained in the method and techniques--as long as speech practice is still a daily activity. STM training and one-on-one consulting for therapists and family members is available. Contact us for more information.

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For more information about this or any questions you have about Stroke Family Speech Practice Kits, call us toll free. Someone with years of experience will be happy to talk with you.

© 2015 Barbara Dean Schacker